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Feb 13, 2009

13/02/2009 (On-The-Air)

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Every Friday morning, SAfm’s AMLive’s radio anchor Tim Modise speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:

Modise: South Africa has burst through the 28-year-old, 3 777-metre barrier and has set a new world record mining at depth. Tell me more.

Creamer: South Africa has set a new record and the Guinness Book of Records has been notified and it is official that we have burst through the 3 777-metres, that is 3,7 km.

The good news is that this has happened out at the far West Rand, the Mponeng mine, it is the AngloGold Ashanti group. Important is that this has been done cheaply. In other words we can say that ‘deep can be cheap’.

We can see that Mponeng mine is actually producing at a cash cost of $222 per ounce. That is even lower then many shallow mines. So it is a brilliant achievement to have a cash cost that low. We are looking at the gold price now in the $900 per ounce, can you imagine your costs are $222 per ounce, the margin of profit is unbelievably attractive.

Also, it seems that as they go deeper they are finding higher grade and this is also helping. But, gold is the flavour of the month at the moment. At the Mining Indaba we just had gold companies coming through with increased production and more activity and we see that the price is continuing to rise and people seeing it as a safe haven throughout the world.

Many say that it will touch the $1 000 an ounce mark.

Modise: Moving from mining then to nanotechnology. South Africa, India and Brazil launching a news partnership to study this not so widely known technology.

Creamer: Nanotechnology is the study of things very tiny, you can’t even see them with the naked eye, sometimes you can’t even see them through very powerful microscopes. They are saying that we need to actually get to know more about this futuristic technology, which could have more impact than the introduction of computers.

A lot of people are waiting, in the next 20 to 30 years, for breakthrough. They feel that nanotechnology will be able to uplift poor communities particularly, because it will give a lot more empowerment to people to do things for themselves.

What we are looking at now are countries, South Africa, India, Brazil, cooperating in a partnership in this nanotechnology. Our Science and Technology Minister is wanting our country to be a leader in nanotechnology and setting-up the African Nano Centre and making sure that Southern African Region and Africa gets involved in this, but that the Nano Centre makes sure it keeps in touch with the world as well so that we can lift our human resource development.

The first big meeting will take place in India, they will take the lead and host a nanotechnology and water workshop coming up in May this year.

That will be followed by another, which will be Nanotechnology and Health and that will be in South Africa in November, each of them taking a turn to lift up a notch in nanotechnology which is seen as something that can really uplift disadvantaged people, but something that is well in the future but we should keep in touch with, because of a potential breakthrough.

Modise: An ambitious groundwater study is under way in neighbouring Namibia, the driest country in Sub-Saharan Africa. This may yield some benefit.

Creamer: Water has always been key, but as economies need to grow, water becomes even more crucial. When you have got a dry country like Namibia you have to make sure that you are ambitious about finding out exactly how much water you’ve got.

South Africa did a similar groundwater study in 2005 to 2007 and that was done by a consulting engineering company SRK. Namibia is keen now to bring SRK over as the lead consultant to lead the way in this ambitious groundwater study project.

They know where the aquifers are, but they don’t know the volumes of water there. If you don’t know the volumes of water, then you don’t know how much your industry and grow and how much you can grow in urbanisation.

Before they cast their eyes to the sea – which they have been doing to desalinate and to get that water, even some mining companies are getting water from the sea – they want to know exactly how much groundwater they’ve got.

They are going through with this study which will be similar to South Africa’s GRA 2 in order to ascertain exactly how much water they have got under the surface and how sustainable it is to actually depend on it for economic growth and development.

Modise: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly, he’ll be back with us at the same time next week.

Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter
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